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Saint John Bosco

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St. John Don Bosco
Catholic Patron Saint of Magicians

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Also known as Don Bosco; Giovanni Bosco; Giovanni Melchior Bosco; John Melchoir Bosco

Feast Day
31 January
Born
1815 at Becchi, Castelnuovo d'Asti, Piedmont, Italy
Died
1888 at Turin, Italy
Venerated
24 July 1907 by Pope Pius X
Beatified
2 June 1929 by Pope Pius XI
Canonized
1934 by Pope Pius XI
Name Meaning
God is gracious; gift of God
Patronage
apprentices; boys; editors; Mexican young people; laborers; schoolchildren; students; young people

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When most people, Catholics or not, find out that there actually is a Catholic saint whose sphere of influence includes stage magic, they generally ask if this is actually true. The answer is, it's quite true. January 31 is the day set aside on the Catholic liturgical calendar to honor St. John Don Bosco. Don is simply the Italian honorific for a respected person, equivalent to the English title of Sir. He was referred to as Don even during his life by both villagers and the children for whom he cared.

Many people would wonder how it is how it is that the Catholic Church and magic could get mixed up together. During the later half of the 19th century, as Europe's poor were suffering from the effects of Industrialization, Don Bosco saw how most of the children in his village remained uneducated and unchurched. After Mass on Sundays, he would round up his little friends and relate the Bible stories he learned in church to them. To keep their attention he would use magic tricks as he retold these stories.

As a young man, Don Bosco became a priest and directed his ministry solely to poor children. He needed a way to get kids interested in coming to church and to accept the aid he was offering. He used puzzles, riddles and juggling but it was the magic that most quickly caught the kids's attention. Stories that have come down to us from his contemporaries include some specific tricks he used. He was said to be especially good at tying three ropes together to form one seamless rope in order to explain the mystery of the Christian Trinity. He also would pull coins from ears and change pebbles into money delighting the children who were under his care. Don Bosco started a community of Catholic priests, nuns and brothers who still to this day help street kids and youth in gangs throughout the world including New York City.

Catholic magicians in Europe still celebrate this day by performing benefit shows for children. Some Catholic magicians here in America celebrate the day in their own creative ways. Though the day might easily go past us, as it has so many times previously, it's gratifying to sit and reflect, whether or not you are Catholic, on the "magical effect" that tricks have on people and especially children.

The real magic occurs when, during performances, we can transport our audience to an alternative world and reality, even if for only a few seconds. Being able to show something fantastic, something "unbelievable" is our special province. Magic can allow us to bring gasps, smiles and open-mouth gapes to anyone we wish. We intentionally stupefy, stagger, mesmerize, enthrall and amaze for no other reason than to see the smiles on a thousand faces.

It's not so strange that our most appreciative audiences are frequently kids; they are the most willing to temporarily suspend belief. When we look back to the first magic trick we can remember, it's not so hard to see why Don Bosco chose to help kids with the use of magic.

"They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic." - Acts of the Apostles 8:11

Source: Angelo Stagnaro

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Profile
John's father died when the boy was 2 years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs and carnivals, practice the tricks he saw magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church.

Worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. Ordained in 1841. Teacher. Worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play and pray, teaching catechism to orphans and apprentices. Chaplain in a hospice for girls. Wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children, and then taught children how to print them. Founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Chistians, and Saint Francis de Sales. Founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians in 1872, and Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875.

Catholic Magicians' Guild

Click the link above to visit the Catholic Magicians' Guild; a website for Christian Magicians and others who use the Art of magic to teach.

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Novena in Honor of
St. John Bosco


Father and Teacher of the Young

In need of special help, I appeal with confidence to you, Saint John Bosco, for I require not only spiritual graces, but also temporal ones, and particularly...

(add your personal intentions here)

May you, who on earth had such great devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to Mary Help of Christians, and who always had compassion for those who were suffering, obtain from Jesus and His Heavenly Mother the grace I now request, and also a sincere resignation to the Will of God.

(Recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be)

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